Friday, December 31, 2010

Not Just One Fork

"Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road. Life grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go" - Green Day

On this last day of 2010 it's fun to reflect upon the past year and there is always the temptation to put a label on it as if we were able to qualify it as good or bad. There are good events and bad events; scary, satisfying and joyful events, all of which make up each moment, day, month and year in our lives. How can anyone term a moment, month or year "bad" or "good"? Each moment simply is.

We are offered many amazing opportunities on a day to day basis and I am incredibly lucky to be able to take advantage of so much life has to offer. Everyone has limitations; some are mental, others physical, monetary or time-based. The trick is to learn how to work around the things that limit us and capitalize on the areas we are able to explore. I may not be capable of being as active as I would like to be, but I'm dedicating this next phase in my life to using my mind (what there is of it!) in different ways.

What to do? Learn another language? Study an interesting subject? At times I'm so overwhelmed with the possibilities I feel a bit paralyzed; there is an endless display of forks laid out before me and I'd like to go down each one. Maybe the biggest challenge for me is to choose which avenues to pursue and which to bypass, and not my physical limitations, after all.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Stretching

The first time my grandmother R held Wilson when he was but a week or so old she commented on the way he stretched as he slept, arched back and squirming: "that's how they grow", she said. I've always remembered that moment and her wisdom. I'm not sure if that really is how babies grow, by stretching, but it's a piece of old-time wisdom that makes much sense. How else to explain the miracle that is life, growth and change?

Even when we are finished physically growing, we can still stretch ourselves in order to grow. Having new experiences, trying new things, going out of our comfort zone and learning. Sometimes it is uncomfortable, for me anyway. How much easier it is to stick to the old, familiar, tried and true path. Yet there is something inside that prompts me to want to learn new things, no matter how uncomfortable it makes me. There is frustration at not mastering something immediately; it would be much easier to do something the way I've always done it. Yet the challenge beckons.

I've found it best for me to acknowledge the discomfort and frustration and push through it. Eventually, with practice, whatever it is I'm trying to master becomes easier and more familiar. The key is not to avoid new things because of the sensations they bring up. If I was to make a New Year's resolution, that would be it.

May 2011 be a year of stretching beyond old levels of comfort and full of new and exciting experiences.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Socks Appeal

The second pair of socks, which I'll hopefully finish up this weekend. I love the self-patterning yarn, it keeps things interesting because the pattern unfolds as I knit, I never really know what a given section is going to look like.

Yarn: Schoeller Stahl self-patterning sock yarn. Pattern: Classy slip-up on size 0 needles.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Giving Thanks


The Before....


Table set, flowers arranged, food prepared, waiting on the turkey to finish up and family to arrive.













And The After:

Great food contributed by everyone and nuclear family: Mom, Dad, Wilson, Joe, Scott, Carrie and Day. Thankfulness all in one room!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Reprieve

Everyone deserves a special treat on Thanksgiving, even Baby, the late-season squirrel pup who has cleverly figured out how to hop on to my "squirrel-proof" bird feeder. Normally I'd chase him off and re-apply the butter I put on top to deter him, but today he will be allowed to stuff himself like the rest of us.

Enjoy, Baby, for tomorrow you will be relegated to scrounging on the ground, like the rest of your kind!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Importance of Being Earnest

As someone who is old enough to remember days before the internet and online communication, it's interesting to think about how dramatically things have changed. We now have access to each other 24/7; we can see what friends are doing at any given moment on FB or Twitter; research a topic at any hour of the day or night and get up-to-the-minute information on our bank accounts and stocks. We are able to look up friends we've lost touch with, find others who share similar interests and meet people from across the globe. The world is at our fingertips.

Written communication is now the norm. No longer do we need to sit down, put a pen to paper and drop it in the USPS mailbox. We don't even need to pick up the phone and speak directly to a person: for a short communication a text will suffice and letters have been replaced by emails.

With this ease of communication comes a host of problems. When things are put into writing much of the context is lost: there is no face-to-face interaction which gives a large part of meaning to the words that are said. Something that might obviously be a joke when told in person could come across as a nasty remark without the hand and facial gestures that would have accompanied a verbal exchange. Misinterpretation is easy when reading others' comments.

Another tendency is to put everything out there: every emotion, feeling, interaction. What used to be saved for a personal journal with an individual's most innermost and private thoughts is now published on the web for all to see. Is this healthy? Who's knows? I do think that because we're typing into a computer and not having a conversation and looking into another's eyes we tend to overshare and say things that might otherwise be saved for a private personal conversation.

I've also noticed that we don't hesitate to put into writing things we would never say to someone in a face-to-face conversation. It's much easier to be blunt and honest to the point of rudeness when you're not looking at the person you are "talking" to. Perhaps it's just because I am of the generation that is accustomed to communication prior to the internet that my skin is a bit thinner than those who grew up with this technology. It could be that in another 20 years everyone will be telling each other "like it is" and nobody will think much of it, and I just need to evolve with the times.

Personally, I'm going to try to make it a point to not say anything over the internet that I wouldn't say to someone in a face-to-face conversation. Call me old fashioned but I'd rather not have every detail of my life flapping in the wind for all to see, nor would I like to be someone who is blunt and inconsiderate of people's feelings by telling them things about themselves that they probably won't acknowledge anyway. Walking away is still a good option, even if it's a virtual walk-away by clicking the "close" button.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

New Skill Set

I'm proud of my mom; she's someone who has, for the larger part of her life, not had any medical issues. I think she has done amazingly well in mastering the skill of how to navigate the medical system under challenging circumstances.

My parents are part of the generation which saw their own parents live out their lives only visiting a doctor if there was a dire issue: Broken bones, surgeries or a catastrophic illness. Most things either resolved on their own or the person died, simple as that. No routine screenings for colon cancer, no yearly pap smears or mammograms. It's no wonder the medical system can be difficult to navigate- many illnesses, tests and reasons to visit the doctor have come into being only in the past 40-50 years. My parents' generation has had no modeling for this aspect of their lives and are now having to set precedence for the rest of us.

Just knowing when to call the doctor is a challenge. What symptoms are concerning? What is normal, what's not? How does one find the best care for their particular situation? What makes a good doctor and how does a patient find one? None of this is taught to us and, unfortunately, it isn't something that comes naturally to most people.

Medicine is 75% science and 25% art, in my opinion. It's more than just looking at lab values, numbers, test results. It takes some creativity to weave all the information together with the information gleaned from the patient: how they are feeling, how their illness affects them, treatments that are going to fit in with their life. It's not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. Two people may have the exact same diagnosis, but with very different presentations and treatment plans.

Over the past few years my mom has faced an increasing number of medical issues, which she has handled with grace and good humor. She's a medical challenge requiring numerous experts and specialists, all of whom really need to work together since one change in medication can cause disastrous results. The learning curve has been steep- it's not easy to go from a healthy, active person to someone who needs to see a number of doctors, sometimes on a weekly basis.

I'm so happy she has a good care team in place, with most of her doctors at one facility, which both my parents are truly impressed with. Cooperation seems to be the key there, and an effort is made to accommodate the patient. For example, if tests are ordered they are scheduled at the time of other appointments, saving the patient a trip back in.

It's never easy navigating a change in circumstances, especially in terms of health, but I feel confident that my mom is in very good hands and can add that she is a top-notch patient. Definitely one of the more challenging aspects of life to master!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Acupuncture Part Deux

The acupuncturist I see is located in the town next to mine, on a dead-end, narrow street in a home from the 1860s. Parking is non-existent so cars must be left on the street prior to turning onto the short road. As I walked down the street I saw 2 men standing outside the acupuncturist's home; one was holding a dog on a leash. I smiled as I approached and said hello.

The older of the 2 men asked why I was smiling and if I was there to be massaged or poked. Poked. He asked why. Did it help? Why was I going? In the past I might have felt put on the spot or even tongue-tied, but I honestly didn't mind his questions. I told him being poked was something I was open to and I wanted a complement to traditional medicine. Yes, I thought it did help. This was my second appointment and I probably wouldn't have come back if I didn't think I was going to benefit. He made some joke about needles being placed in my face to make me smile and I said "who knows?" as I knocked and entered into the office.

Office sounds like too formal of a word, though. The entryway is more like a comfortable foyer with nice scents, soft music and 2 low chairs. Shoes are taken off. Tammy led me into a second treatment room, this one different but just as lovely as the one I was in last time. We discussed how I have been feeling since my first session. I gave her a list of my medications, something I had forgotten last time. We reviewed them together; she asked quite a few questions and explained my medical problems from an Eastern perspective.

The table was just as inviting and comfortable as the one in the other room. Needles were first placed on the back side of my body and left for 20 minutes. About half way through the time I felt an urge to lower my shoulders, a very natural feeling. I was in a deeply relaxed state and hovered just above sleep while remaining aware of my breath and the music.

Flip over and then the front with another 20 minute rest. This time I felt a clear sensation of my sinuses opening up. Very cool! I hadn't been having any pain or pressure but they felt much more open, as if there was a lot more air moving through them. There was some post-nasal drip following this sensation.

At the end of the session I was again left with a sense of peace and well-being. I'm not sure whether it's simply the amount of time gone by that has helped my acceptance of the new medical issues or if the acupuncture is somehow contributing. I'm just happy I feel more at peace with things. Tammy mentioned she feels that I'm following my true path and that the universe wants me to be around for a good while. Now that is a diagnosis I like!

My next appointment will be in 3 weeks because of the Thanksgiving holiday and already I'm looking forward to it.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Unchartered Territory


You're never too old to feel left out apparently- it's not just for awkward middle school moments! As a rule I don't usually feel like an outsider when amongst my friends, but lately I'm more aware of the rift. I'm not one to bring up medical issues unless asked, assuming that unless there is some invitation to share that people would rather not hear about it. That is just my style and I'm not about to change things at this stage in the game. Anyone who knows me well understands this, I figure.

I truly understand that it isn't always about me. Just because I have serious medical issues that nearly always trump whatever others have going on, doesn't mean that my problems are worse, per se. I'm empathetic (I hope!) and try never to say "oh yeah, you think that's bad? listen to this!" In all honesty, I'd much rather listen to friends' problems which I consider much more interesting my own. That being said, I am somewhat sensitive to the fact that there is frequently no inquiry into my health, what is going on for me even a "how are you feeling today?"

I've reached a point in my life where I'm not able to easily participate in many of the activities that others in my social circle find fun. It's more difficult to get around with the O2. I can't be as active and my energy is lower. I need to avoid smoke. I'm ready to go to sleep when, by most people's standards, the evening is just getting interesting.

So what's the answer? I don't want friends to have to alter plans in order to include me. Why should their social lives and fun be penalized because I can't keep up? So do I politely smile and say "no thanks" when invited, or would I rather that they didn't mention activities I can't be involved in at all? Not sure. It's easy for me to see that isolation and pulling away is the path of least resistance, being around others who can understand first hand what this feels like is much easier and more comfortable. I know many people who wrestle with this issue and have yet to come across a good answer to the question.

As with most things, a work in progress. Here ends my mental dump and sort.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Porcupine

From time to time I've considered acupuncture in the past, even making an appointment with a practitioner in Salem who came highly recommended. After having a brief chat with her on the phone I realized I didn't feel completely comfortable with her and I called back to cancel, never going through with it.

I was given the name of another practitioner by a trusted health care provider and this person sounded much more up my alley. I felt comfortable when we spoke on the phone and took a last minute cancellation opening (must be my week for that!) yesterday.

This acupuncturist has a MS in Oriental Medicine and has years of experience. A fluffy dog and petite kitty greeted me as I walked in the door. Oh yes, this feels right, nothing like animals to make me feel comfortable. She asked me question after question, wanting to understand my complex medical history as well as my home life, personality, beliefs and body. She explained how the acupuncture session would go and we got started.

The space was truly lovely and the first word that comes to mind is serene. Painted a soft spring green, the room was perfectly square with an open cupola in the ceiling with a window on each of the 4 sides. There were full length windows on 2 sides of the room with opaque shades which allowed privacy with lots of soft, natural light. A wind chime produced soft music from outside in the background of my favorite chanting CD, Eternal Om. The wall which provided backdrop for an Asian cabinet covered with Buddhist artifacts also had a large painting of a field of flowers in soft whites and blues. I could have stared at it for hours.

The table was similar to a massage table but had a warming pad on it and was like the most comfortable of beds: soft and cozy while still being supportive. I had needles placed in my legs, arms and back and some acupressure done on my shoulders, which made my legs extremely jumpy. This, she explained, was old wind leaving my body. Anybody who knows my sense of humor will envision how difficult it was for me not to make a play on words with that, but I restrained myself.

Half way through the session I was turned over and the process was repeated on the front of my body, face (!) and ears. The needles didn't hurt, but there was a slight sensation of tingling as they were inserted. She left the room for the last 15 minutes, allowing me to relax. From time to time I would become aware of a sensation of warmth or tingling in one or another of the needles, but for the most part I was completely unaware that they were there. After they were removed I was left with a feeling of peacefulness and deep relaxation.

Today, though I'm anxious to feel something - anything- different, I don't notice anything. We agreed to connect by phone to see how I felt and set up a treatment plan if I decide to continue. I didn't expect to wake up feeling cured of all my ills today, wanting to try this as a complement to my current treatment regime and medications. I'm interested in continuing to see if there is any benefit, even if it's just psychological. I figure at this point in my life, I can use all the help I can get! I'll continue to document future sessions as objectively as possible in order to mark my progress.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cardio Workout

Today was my appointment with the cardiologist for a second opinion. What a long, strange trip this has been- starting last April when I failed a 6 minute walk test and was started on oxygen. The first cardiologist, Dr. P, interpreted the results of the level 3 Baird test completely differently than my pulmonologist. In fact, I preferred his interpretation: you're fine, just out of shape, that's why you are so short of breath. Try taking a baby aspirin each day and come back to see me in a couple years.

Whoa! Very different than what I was told by my CF doc: you have exercise-induced pulmonary artery hypertension as well as left ventricular failure. Easy to see why Dr P's diagnosis was preferable, no?

After hours of online research and asking questions of basically every medical professional I came across, I had the name of another cardiologist: Dr S. who runs the heart failure and transplant clinic at MGH. He conducted a study involving the level 3 Baird and cystic fibrosis patients several years ago which was published in the medical journal Chest. The down side is that he is extremely busy and difficult to get an appointment with. Needless to say, his secretary and I are now on a first name basis; I called at least once a week to try to get into a cancelled appointment slot. My persistence paid off and I snatched up today's opening.

Basically, he said he didn't have a clear picture of what is going on with me. I've stumped the best of the best! He was concerned about my blood pressure, especially when I exercise, when it topped out at 210/112, much higher than a normal person's. The pressure in my pulmonary capillaries is much higher than normal as well, 50, when it should be around 12. As if this wasn't enough, my left ventricle doesn't pump or relax properly and this in turn affects the right ventricle. Cardiomyopathy or heart failure. Oh, and a small PFO.

However, despite all the cardiac abnormalities, he doesn't think my shortness of breath is heart related; if it was, I wouldn't feel better using the oxygen. Not only do I feel better, but my O2 saturation is much higher when I use the oxygen. He's going to need to confer with my pulmonologist in order to discuss this and come up with a plan.

As frustrating as it is not to have a definite cause for what is going on at least I feel that I have the very best minds working together to figure it out. I suppose in the end it doesn't really matter whether the root cause is cardiac or pulmonary; my personal theory is that it is a combination of the two. In the meantime, I'll continue to use the oxygen for activity; I'll keep up with exercise, and (this is going to the the tough part!) cut down on my salt intake. I'll wait to hear back about anti-hypertensives and just keep on keepin' on.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sock it to Me

Technically, 2010 has been the year of the slipper. Although I started in 12/09, I went a bit slipper-happy and made some 10 pairs of felted slippers, thus completely wearing out the fun in that particular pattern.

My goal for 2011 was going to be to learn to knit socks. I've always fancied handmade socks and since I mostly wear clogs, exposing my own, I thought it might be a fun thing to learn. Joe bought me a book on sock knitting and I ordered a bit of yarn. I was ready to go.

Then came the surprise middle-of-the-night admission. Whoa! Nothing was packed, no bag of things to keep me busy and sane. Once again, Joe to the rescue: he brought in my new book and the yarn and I went to town. Since I was only in for a week, I didn't finish the first pair I started, but I did one sock and 2/3 of the second. I finished them up during Sunday afternoon football and now Joe's piggies will be super-cozy. Amazing! They actually look like real socks!

Pattern: simple ribs with 1 skein Northampton jade size 2 needles.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Like a Hole in the Head

While walking by a garage sale today on the way to the post office we saw an old portable Singer sewing machine in excellent condition. The lady running the sale was friendly and I remarked how nice her machine was; she proceeded to tell me a bit about it and said she was asking $20, even offering to let me plug it in and try it out. Ah, that's ok, I have one already, I was just admiring. As we walked away, Joe whispered, "would you like it?"

It took me about 2 seconds. I thought it might be nice to have a case that is in perfect condition. Even after refinishing mine, there is still a large break in the domed case that I wasn't able to repair. I could refinish this one and swap out the machines. We walked back and paid for the machine, which we would pick up on our way home from the post office. It weighs 35 lbs.

Once home I tried out the machine and was instantly enamored: the bobbin is quite different than any other machine I've owned, a tiny shuttle. Unfortunately, it wouldn't sew, something in the mechanism was sticking and wouldn't allow the needle to complete its up and down cycle. A partial dis-assembly, some 3-in-1 oil, and a bit of tinkering with the upper and lower tensions and it sews like a dream. It's not as pretty as the 1924 model, a bit more utilitarian- without the gold scroll-work and fancy embossed plates- but a good, old machine nonetheless. A quick check on the serial number tells me it was made in 1951 in Elizabethport, NJ.

I took the machine out of the case and started in on refinishing the case; after the linseed oil/turps/stain dries I'll do the 3 coats of urethane. I needed this like a I need a hole in the head, but I have to say I really love the new machine. How could I not after Joe lugged it the 3 blocks home?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fixed up


This was definitely one of the most rewarding refinishes I've done to date. Although on the back of the domed case there is a broken area the rest of it came out beautifully. I'm not sure what type of wood the base is- the top is just a veneer but it did develop a nice rich color when treated with a bit of linseed oil.

The machine needed a couple parts to be functional and fortunately I was able to find a 1927 model 99 on Ebay. Once they were installed I took the machine for a test drive and was completely amazed that it sewed perfectly: no tension issues, just perfect, evenly spaced stitches. I was anticipating the need to bring it to a repair shop to work out any issues but evidently that isn't going to be necessary.

Talk about being built to last!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fixer-upper

Although I have a beautiful, state of the art, sewing machine that Joe gave me for my 40th birthday, I've been coveting an old Singer for some time. I've been keeping my eyes open at garage sales and flea markets for a Featherweight: a small, portable Singer that is a functional and durable antique, as well as a collector's item.

Along came a Freecycle posting offering up an old Singer. I responded, never expecting to be the first one, as most people receive updates to their cell phones and put their dibs in on good items quickly. Nevertheless, I was the first one and promptly drove to Lynn to pick up this old machine. The case is a bit banged up it will need rewiring. Otherwise, it is missing the knee lever that makes it go and the bobbin plate. No matter, I'm was still thrilled! This is my equivalent of an old car that needs to be fixed up. A labor of love.

After a bit of research online, I discovered it is from 1924, a model 99, one of which only 15,000 were made. Not a Featherweight, but the next best thing. It is portable and still functional but will need a knee lever and eventually new wires. I picked up a spare machine for parts on ebay and voila! She runs beautifully, even after 90 years.

I'm not intending to cast aside my beautiful Janome, which I love to sew with. It does everything I need it to do, and more. Technology has advanced to the point that I could never do any repairs on it, other than to remove the lint that accumulates around the bobbin. It's computerized and this Singer is more of a toy that I can play with. I can take it apart, see how it works, put it back together and it is no worse for the wear. No computer parts here!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Freeze Frame

Joe's weekend project, which turned out to be a much bigger deal than I anticipated, was to build me a cold frame for the garden. Hopefully I'll be able to put my seeds out much earlier next spring since they'll be protected. The top opens and can be propped up to allow for ventilation on warm days.

The best part of this project is that it is made from 100% scrap wood and repurposed objects. The windows were from our living room. The hinges from 2 doors we had removed and the rest was scrap lumber Joe had been saving. No longer am I allowed to be critical of his saving every little thing! Apparently, I just need to give him more projects in order to put his hoarded items to good use. Thanks, Honey!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Miscellany



Dahlia from the garden. They seem much happier now that the heat wave is over. I know just how they feel.










Faux stone trough that I planted this morning with some sedum and hen-and-chicks. Faux is such an awesome word; who else but the French could think up such a classy way to say "fake"?

Little Miss Muffet




Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet
eating her curds and whey,
when along came a spider
who sat down beside her
and frightened Miss Muffet away!

Role reversal! As I was snapping a few photos of this big spider I accidentally nudged her web and she was the one frightened away. She hid, ironically enough, under the "welcome friends" sign we have on the back deck.

I wish the camera was able to capture her intricate web, it was huge and perfect. Sadly, the winds of tropical storm Earl demolished it and it appears Ms. Spider has moved on. She was in a great spot, bugs are always flying into that window.

Friday, September 3, 2010

PFO No Go

After enduring one of the most torturous tests ever invented by a sadistic doctor, I got a call with Dr P's opinion yesterday. The cardiac nurse said that the results aren't finalized, but since the he is going to be away for 10 days she didn't want to leave me hanging. Based on the preliminary results, he feels it would not have any benefit to repair my PFO. Disappointing, definitely, but I'll wait for the final results before totally bumming out. In the meantime, I'll call the pulmonary folks and get some more details.

So, it seems like R2D2 and my portable tanks are here to stay. I wonder if I can mosaic the O2 concentrator?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Backlogged

I have had so many topics floating around in my head for the past couple weeks, but not the desire to sit down and actually write about any of them.

This photo is from our trip to Rangeley, some black and blueberry muffins we had one morning. Being fairly late in the season there were but a few blueberries, but oh! the blackberries. Combined they made a wonderful muffin. Nothing beat
s sitting at the counter, looking out the window with a steaming mug of coffee and a hot-from-the-oven muffin.


It just doesn't get much better than that!










Tuesday, August 24, 2010

BCE

BCE or Before Cat Era there was Dog Era. We had 2 during my growing-up years, both of which were poodles. My parents never liked cats; they walked on the cars in the driveway and left paw prints in addition to hiding under the shrubs next to the bird feeders. My only exposure to the neighbor's cat ended with a scratch when I decided to help kitty into my wading pool. How was I to know cats didn't like water?

CE

Shortly after setting out on my own, with an apartment and nobody but myself to consider, I came across a small kitten after work one evening in the middle of Chinatown. It scurried across the street and under a pile of boxes at the side of the road, waiting for trash day. Concerned it might be injured, I stopped to check that it was alright. Although I knew nothing about kittens, this one appeared to be rather young; no momma cat in sight. Ah, well, certainly it didn't belong to anybody, else it wouldn't be out at 1 am unsupervised. I'll just bring it home and drop it at the shelter in the morning so it can find a good home. The 7-11 was still open and I picked up a litter pan and some food to make sure kitty was taken care of until I could get to the shelter. I set her up in the bathroom with food, water and her own toilet and went to bed.

The next morning I could hear her mewing behind the bathroom door. She had curled up in the sink and gone to sleep but now she was ready to get out and explore her surroundings. So cute! How could I bring her to the shelter? I made the somewhat impulsive but never regretted decision to adopt this little stray. Her name was officially Tyler, after the street she was found on, but for her entire life, she was really just called Miss Kitty.

A quick trip to the vet revealed that Kitty was a She, about 6 weeks old and in seemingly good health. She had her shots and all the other routine things a cat needs. True, she wasn't the easiest pet to have: slightly feral (though I didn't know enough about cats at the time to realize that) and she never liked to be touched. I probably didn't socialize her enough when she was a kitten, working a crazy schedule and not knowing that cats, like all creatures, need a good bit of attention. Out the window with the myth that cats don't need interaction. True, they can survive without it, but they do much better with plenty of it. Lesson learned.

She moved 3 times with us, first when Joe and I got married, then to a second apartment and finally to our house. Sadly, she didn't live more than a couple years once we had our home, collapsing suddenly at 6 years old of a presumed heart ailment. She was a bit wild and very difficult for any vet to vaccinate, let alone examine, so she never had a proper physical. She had a short, but hopefully happy life with us. Surely, it must have been better than being a feral cat in Chinatown?

Once I got to know a cat on an intimate level I realized how complex and interesting they are. How affectionate, intelligent and personable. Yes, each one has a very unique personality. Shocking! More wary than dogs, it's hard for a casual observer to discern a cat's uniqueness.

After Miss Kitty's untimely demise Wilson and I made a trip to the shelter and adopted 2 adult cats, Benji and Charlotte. A year and a half later, a third joined the ranks when we brought Gomer home. Joe's only stipulation to the adoption was that the name given him at the shelter remain intact. The shelter was right-on, Gomer turned out to be a lovable, goofy, affectionate cat.

Benji was a gray long haired boy who was an alpha cat if there is such a thing. He had no tolerance for any other felines trespassing in his territory. He had a particularly scrappy summer when a white Tom moved in down the street. Numerous trips to the vet were required to repair his constantly injured ear; he didn't seem to come out on top of these fights and would pursue White Tom down the street if he caught a glimpse of him. Thankfully, Tom disappeared as suddenly as he arrived, but his memory remained in Benji's thereafter deformed ear.

Charlotte was a true lady. She loved being carried around the yard as I checked on the gardens. She'd sit contentedly in my arms and survey with me. She slept with me at night and had the loudest purr of any cat we've had to date. Both she and Benji were lap cats and would settle down with us in the evenings to watch television. Sadly, both are gone now, but they lived into ripe old age, for cats anyway. Benji was around 15 and Charlotte 18-ish. They are now resting in their favorite spots in the yard. Benji under the burning bush and Charlotte under the bench she used to love to sit on.

The girls, as we call them, came into the house as 8 week old kittens. Much wiser and with more time available, I was able to spend plenty of hours playing with Millie and Gracie during their formative youths. The effort paid off in that they are delightful, sweet, very social and love to be petted or played with.

Millie, it turns out, is the more adventurous of the two. She has been known to sneak outside if the opportunity presents. She's a terrific fly catcher, able to grab one in just a paw and eat it up with one swift motion. She will visit at night but won't sleep with us, preferring to come for some scratching and a snooze, then returning to play downstairs with Gracie.

Neither will sit on our laps on the couch in the evening, no amount of cajoling will entice them.

Gracie will, however, sit on my lap while I do my morning and evening treatments. She has a certain way she likes to be petted (right hand only on her head, left hand cradling her two back feet as she lies on her side or back). Any deviation from this preferred method results in getting kicked with 2 hind legs. I may not be brilliant, but I do catch on after a bit. Sometimes I wonder who is training whom?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Dirty, Pretty Things

The last time it rained enough that the garden didn't require hand watering was probably back in June, so the daily routine has been: cup of coffee, water and weed the garden, then pick whatever is ready to be harvested. Saturday it was our first eggplant. Last week there were the first cherry tomatoes and cucumbers. Today there are carrots!

The routine takes anywhere between 15-40 minutes, depending upon how much maintenance is needed. Admittedly, I enjoy lingering; seeing what has grown since the previous day and admiring the fruits (well, veggies) of my labor. Even on the most uncomfortable, humid days it's still a pleasure.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I Need A Spoon-full of Sugar

Although I hate to dwell on medical issues they are an inescapable part of my life, so I will include an update here. Just the facts, please, ma'am.

Let's see, where was I? Oh yes, the echocardiogram results of a PFO back in June. After consulting with a cardiac surgeon last week (the head of the department, I might add) it was determined that I could skip the lengthy and involved approval process for PFO closure because of my CF and hypoxia (low oxygen levels). Skip to the head of the class. The only drawback being that I would need one or possibly two additional medical procedures prior to being able to have the PFO repaired.

Medical test number one: TEE or trans-esophageal echocardiogram. Basically the same test I had back in June, but a bit more detailed than the previous echocardiogram. For this one they need to do the ultrasound from within your esophagus, which gives a much better picture of the heart structures. Sedation is used as most people tend to not enjoy having an ultrasound scope inserted down their throat, and because of my history of CF I'd need to have general anesthesia in case of the need for a quick intubation. They'd give me light anesthesia so I'd still be breathing on my own, but were ready to step in should there be any difficulties. Ready, set, probe!

The test was actually quite simple, I had a nice sleep and woke up feeling not too much worse for the wear, only a slight sore throat and fuzzy feeling in my head. I actually found it easier to recover from than the sedation they usually use for such procedures. The results came in yesterday and indeed, it is a PFO with a trace amount of blood shunting from one atrium to the other. Next stop: cardiac cath/pulmonary lab to verify how much of a shunt there is on exercise to see if that is the cause for my hypoxia. If it is, then the PFO will be closed. If not, they won't fix it and we'll need to do a bit more medical detective work.

Apparently the Level III Baird test is so popular there is a 3 month wait time to have it done. A date should be confirmed today and I'll be put on the waiting list in case there are any cancellations. Part of me wants to have it over with and the other part would like to put this off as long as possible.

Cardiac catheterization is a procedure where a small incision is made either in the groin or above another large vein and a catheter introduced up and into the right side of the heart. During the level III baird test, not only is there a cardiac catheterization, but also arterial monitoring of the blood to detect oxygen levels, usually done in the radial (wrist) artery. Neither of these aspects of the test sound like much fun to me, but the icing on the cake is that the patient is required to exercise while all this is going on. I would like to wish the physician and other staff the best of luck in advance for this one.

After the results are in from that I'll have a much better idea of the plan. If there is significant shunting from the right to left atrium causing less blood to pass through the lungs then they will go for the repair. There's a part of me that is wondering if all this is worth it. Using the oxygen isn't that bad... sure, it's inconvenient but I'm much more used to the odd looks people give me. Is it really worth going through all these unpleasant tests without a guarantee that this is the cause of my low oxygen saturation? I suppose it is, but I can't pretend I won't be disappointed if the level III baird doesn't yield some helpful information. Being poked, prodded and probed has to have some benefit, doesn't it?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Shell of my Former Self


While watering the eggplants earlier this week I discovered a very strange looking insect on the underside of one of the leaves. Ok, I admit it: I squealed like a schoolgirl and jumped back. Eventually my curiosity got the better of me and I had to check it out. I needed to know if this thing was going to be competing with me for the vegetables.

I have no idea what kind of bug it is, but it appears to be a shell. The owner must have shed it (molted?) and has hopefully moved on. Far, far away.

I wasn't able to find the opening in the shell where he/she emerged from, which is a bit puzzling, but it is hollow and there hasn't been any movement in 3 days. Not that I'm checking or anything.

Those pincers look pretty mean.

Edited to add: Thank you, google! It's actually a cicada, or as we used to call them growing up: a "heat bug". Harmless to humans and also gardens, though they can damage trees when boring holes in which to lay their eggs. Apparently, they are eaten in some countries, the female cicada being the more meaty and tasty. Yum, yum.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Broken Dishes

One of the things I've tried to teach myself this year has been the making of mosaics. I've always liked them and while browsing at Barnes and Noble back in April I found a book on mosaics. Why not give it a shot? I liked that there isn't a big investment required as with some crafts, I didn't want to have to buy a lot of equipment or supplies. After borrowing a neighbor's tile nippers and gathering a few old plates that were used as plant saucers I was ready.

After gaining confidence on small projects I decided to try an old pipe cabinet that had been in our basement for years. Joe picked it up at a yard sale before we got married, so if I ruined it, no huge loss.



I started small, a birdbath here, a clay pot there. It was fun! With
each project I learned what worked and what not to do. Trial and error has always been my best teacher.






I was so happy with how it came out, I painted the cabinet and it brought it up into the house. No more being relegated to the basement! I had an idea I wanted to try for the living room coffee table, something we picked up on Freecycle. Again, no great loss if I ruin it. I sketched out the design I had envisioned and set up a table in the garage. Several trips to the thrift shop to look for old china plates and I had what I needed: several coordinating plates for the central pattern and plain white ones for the filler. Here's the half-way point.




The table took a bit over a week to finish, but I'm very happy with the results. It brightens up the living room, which has mostly darker colors in it. The grout has been sealed, so it should be fairly indestructible. Boys, you can now put your feet up without my shooting you dirty looks! Enjoy.





Friday, July 9, 2010

Heatwave

I can't even recall the last rain we had, surely back in June, and all 4 of my rain barrels are bone dry. The garden beds are parched, only the things that were planted or moved in the past year have been watered. The vegetables are faithfully watered every day, but everything else is on its own. Crispy is how I would describe the lawn, but experience has taught me that no matter how dead it appears in July and August, as soon as the weather cools and we get some rain it will green up again. Our climate just isn't meant for the lush, green lawns our ancestors in the UK had.

The cucumber plant is hitting its stride, flowers and tiny hairy cukes appear every day. I love the tendrils that grasp the nylon lattice.




The learning curve has been steep for me with the veggies: I've learned that zucchini plants have both male and female flowers, the females being the ones that produce a zucchini. Both types are only open for a matter of hours, and if there is no male flower to pollinate the female, then the zucchini will shrivel up and fall off. Who knew?

















There are a few bunches of both sungold orange and red cherry tomatoes in addition to some big beef, whose photo is on the left. The cherries are so sweet I can eat them right off the plant, warmed from the sun. They are also especially good with a nice sharp cheddar cheese on crackers or in a salad. I'm glad the plants are enjoying the heat and relentless sun, someone should!

Charlotte used to love to make the "rounds" with me, checking out what was growing in the yard, safely tucked in my arms. She'd settle right in and purr the entire time, observing her domain from on high. Gomer, on the other hand, prefers to nap in the coolness of the early morning shade on our new deck. Joe's chair is getting a healthy dose of cat hair. Why should the outdoor furniture be exempt?







Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence and Happiness

As we celebrate our nation's history with fireworks and thoughts of independence I've been thinking a lot about personal independence. Not in the pry-the-gun-from-my-cold-dead-hands, freedom-of-speech-no-matter-the-cost type, but freedom of dependence. It might be freedom from dependence from a drug, alcohol, cigarettes, a bad habit or a person who does you harm. Or, in my case, I'm referring to the ability to be able to take care of myself and produce the things I and my family need. The freedom from dependence on others. Self-sufficiency.

Of course, there is no such thing as being completely independent. I'm no electrician, plumber or carpenter. I can't fix my own car nor can I build a computer. I suppose if I was able to live a simpler life and didn't rely on such amenities as indoor plumbing, electricity and a cell phone I might just be able to do most things myself. I'm not willing to go that far, but it does give me a great deal of joy to be able to do what I can. It's one of the simplest pleasures life has to offer and there is personal satisfaction in knowing that something is homemade.

One of the blogs I routinely read posted about this the other day. Until the 1950s we, as a society, were much more self-sufficient. Of course, things have changed since then: women no longer are at home, in charge of the house and feeding the family. It has become the norm for both adults in a household to be wage-earners. This has left home management unmanned and so for convenience/time/necessity we have turned to purchasing many of the items that 60 years ago were self-produced. It's rare to find someone who cooks from scratch, sews, grows their vegetables, does their own yard and housework. In the past few generation we've lost some of the skills needed to be able to do these things; how long until we're unable because nobody knows how? Interesting to think about. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, but we've become dependent upon companies and business to produce and take care of the things that 3 generations ago we did ourselves.

My circumstances are far from usual- early retirement/disability at 32. I've had to figure out what I'm capable of doing and what makes my life happy and fulfilling. Who knew it would be the simplest things of all? Cooking and baking for my family. Taking care of the house and yard. Growing a little bit of what we eat. Making my own less environmentally harmful cleaners. Being able to knit and sew, make jams and give homemade gifts. I have found this is my own personal formula for happiness, and no doubt there as many other formulas as there are people on the planet. We're all different and I'm sure there are many who could no sooner imagine being happy doing what I do than flying to the moon. Perhaps another person's formula would be the ability to be independent from exactly those things that give me the most happiness. That's what makes our country great and what personal freedom and independence are all about.

Happy Independence Day.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Garden Update July 1


This is the first time I've tried growing dahlias. These are smaller than the 'dinner plate' variety, about 6" in diameter and they are lovely! I'll definitely be planting these again next year.

The tomatoes are growing several inches a day now with plenty of buds. Mmmm, there's nothing like a garden-fresh tomato!

I ate the first few green beans yesterday, there weren't enough for a meal, so I figured I'd just sample to make sure they were ok. And they were.

The peppers and eggplant are enjoying the heat we've had this past week and the sugar snap peas, cukes and zucchini are all beginning to take off. We might even have a strawberry or two if the birds don't beat us to it!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

ECHO.....ECHo....ECho.....Echo.......echo

Good news sometimes comes in strange packages, as in the lesser of two evils. "Hey Dad, I crashed the car. But- good news! I'm not hurt!", or, " Mom, I got a D in math -- but at least I didn't fail!".

My good news is that I may not need the oxygen permanently. The low oxygen saturations that I've been experiencing are most likely caused by a cardiac defect that can be repaired. Definitely the lesser of two evils: irreversible lung damage vs. small hole between 2 of the heart chambers. Did I mention that it can be repaired?

Patent foramen ovale, or PFO for short, is the medical term. Everyone has one before they are born, since babies in utero aren't breathing and receive oxygenated blood from the mother. The body, efficient mechanism that it is, shunts the blood from one side of the heart to the other, bypassing the lungs. Why use something that isn't working? After birth the foramen ovale closes up and the infant's lungs start doing the work. Rarely one won't close up and will need to be repaired, or in my case it has re-opened due to higher pressure in the lungs from the chronic disease.

I had an echocardiogram (echo for short, an ultrasound of the heart) on Monday and got the call from the nurse yesterday afternoon: I have a PFO. I was ecstatic! I doubt she expected my reaction. A heart defect requiring surgery? Sounds bad, right? Maybe, but it can be repaired and I may not need to deal with the oxygen issue just yet. Someday, but at least not right now.

When I exercise or lie flat my blood is shunting from one atria to the other through the PFO and neither getting rid of CO2 nor picking up new O2 in my lungs. Hence, the low O2 sat levels and shortness of breath. Once the PFO is repaired all should return back to normal. It almost feels like a miracle to me, since I was preparing for a new phase in my life, needing oxygen for activity and sleep. Not the end of the world but something that would be limiting and add complications to daily activities, to be sure.

I'm waiting to hear back from the nurse who will be setting up an appointment for me with a cardiac surgeon. I'm anxious to have this over with and get on with my life, hopefully less short of breath and with a bit more energy. I can't even express my gratitude to my doctor who decided to check this out, when it could have easily been written off as CF progression. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted. Good news, indeed.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Deep Peace


This is what I see when I'm at my kitchen sink. We bought this lovely hanging Buddha in Portland and were going to hang it on the fence, but this spot seemed to be calling out for it.


Deep Peace


Deep peace of the running wave to you

Deep peace of the flowing air to you

Deep peace of the quiet earth to you

Deep peace of the shining stars to you

Deep peace of the gentle night to you

Moon and stars pour their healing light on you,

Deep peace to you.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Bye, Bye Birdie


If anyone had ever told me I'd watch every episode of each season of the Sopranos I'd have told them they were nuts. First of all, I don't care for watching violence. Secondly, we don't subscribe to HBO and lastly, I'm usually dozing on the couch or fast asleep by 9pm. However, there is a wonderful invention called Netflix, from which one can rent just about any dvd, any series or television show from the premium channels. Sure, you've got to wait a year or two, but I am usually a bit behind the times with most fads anyway, so it's perfect!

We decided to start renting Sopranos just to see if we liked it. I've always been intrigued by the mafia ever since reading The Godfather series as a young adult. Yes, the show is violent, but hey, it's the mafia after all. The plot line and characters proved to be so engaging I was able to overlook (or cover my eyes) for most of it.

The show starts out with Tony, the head of the "family", in therapy. He's been having panic attacks from the stress of his job. One thing that had recently given him pleasure, a family of ducks who settled into his swimming pool, had just flown off. Naturally, the psychiatrist thought the loss of the ducks somehow equated to his castration fears, but that's beside the point.

The reason I bring this up is because the day after I took the picture of the momma wren feeding her hungry babies, they fledged. They had been very noisy and active, with their little heads poking out of the bird box hole in between visits from Mrs. Wren. In hindsight, it's clear they were preparing themselves for their first flights.

In some ways I felt a little bit sad that they were gone. I had grown accustomed to sitting outside for my breakfast and watching the parents make their many trips back and forth with a tasty bug or moth in their beaks. The cheeping of the babies and the chattering and singing of the parents was one of the first things I heard lying in bed in the morning. They became part of the environment and I enjoyed their presence.

I'm sure a psychiatrist or psychologist could read all kinds of things into my feelings from penis envy to being sad all over again at Wilson's growing up. Who knows, maybe they'd be right. I prefer to think it's just what it is: I liked watching them and seeing the process but it was time for the babies to go forth and do what birds do. I'm sure another year we'll have a different bird family in the birdhouse and I'll enjoy them just as much. In the meantime I'll enjoy the rest of the garden and get to weed the patch under the bird box that I had been avoiding. :-)


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Garden Notes


Yesterday morning I got up early and enjoyed my first cup of coffee outdoors. The sun was just coming up and everything looked so fresh and green. Ms. Wren was busy making many trips back and forth feeding those demanding babies of hers. I was able to get some photos, one of which came out clear enough to post.










The garden is growing well, especially now that there is some deer fencing surrounding it, which makes it impossible for Gomer to get in and use it as a litter box. I'm all for organic fertilizer, but draw the line at horse and cow manure. No cats allowed!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Twitter Update

For the past few days there has been a lot of activity into and out of the bird box, and last night, while dining on the back deck, both Joe and I heard the faintest little peeps coming from that direction every time one of the adult wrens entered the house. The babies have hatched!

What I wouldn't give for a glimpse into the box, I wonder how many there are. I do hope they all survive. Gomer isn't a threat but there have been a couple strangers passing through the yard lately: long-haired orange and fluffy-tail. Maybe Gomer's presence will keep them far enough away when the babies take their first few flights.

That's my tweet for today.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Table, Part 2

Finally I'm able to cross this project off my "to do" list. The table is finished. I'm happy to have it completed and think that this just might be the end of my refinishing phase, at least for now.

I'm very happy with the results and love the table in the living room next to my grandmother's chair. The top is lovely wood, the legs and shelf aren't quite as pretty, but still cleaned up alright. Not bad for $3.



Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Photo Shoot

I love the colors of the peony and false indigo beside each other.































A planter made from an old wine box Joe brought home from work.







Peony close-up.










Early day lily.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Perspective

My rear window was shot out with a pellet gun sometime overnight, something I discovered while filling the bird feeders and baths this morning around 6:30. The responding officer was very nice, took my information and left to check the rest of the neighborhood to see if the perpetrators went on a spree or I was the only lucky one. For his sake I hope it was a single incident, as he said if it was one of many he'd be stuck at work filling out forms until noon, tacked on to his already 12 hour shift.

Since my morning routine was so rudely interrupted I figured I'd mix things up and throw my usual order of things out the window. Usually, it's nebs/vest, breakfast and then exercise. Not today, I'm going rogue! Since I'm going to be outside sweeping up the glass anyway, I might as well do all my outdoor chores at the same time.

We're expecting temperatures in the high 80s, much warmer and more humid than we're used to at this time of year so I wanted to do the watering early, before it got too hot. I grabbed my camera to take a few photos of the garden at this early stage. Only the sugar snap peas and cucumbers have yet to sprout; carrots, onions, bush beans and beets are all poking their way out of the soil. I'm hoping the peppers and eggplant will enjoy the hot weather we're expecting this week, at least someone should benefit from it.


I was fortunate enough to be able to capture Ms. Wren as she prepared to enter the bird box. Here she's perched on the fence post above, which seems to be her routine before actually going inside. Wrens are apparently not timid at all and don't seem to mind our presence in the yard. If we get to close they chatter at us, but we've been trying to respect their space and keep a fair distance. Entering the house is usually preceded by a few minutes of singing.











Here she is just prior to popping into the box. For some reason I get a huge kick out of watching them enter and exit through the little doorway. I could have watched for hours when they were building the nest: making many trips in and out for several days on end.

Smashed windows are inconvenient, no doubt about it, but it's hard to stay upset when there are good things all around. It's all about perspective and one way to keep it in check is to stay connected with nature and all the beauty around us. Thanks, Ms. Wren.


Friday, May 21, 2010

If at First

... you don't succeed-- try, try again. I remember my grandmother teaching me that saying when I was a little girl, some of the best advice I've been given. Trying again is hard, especially when the first experience doesn't go so well. Giving up can seem mighty appealing and is often the easier way out, but if a second (or third or fourth....) attempt is made often times it is more than worth it.

After a conversation with the pulmonary rehab physical therapist, who encouraged me to try a different oxygen delivery system, I waited a couple weeks and then took the plunge. I hated to call the nurse practitioner to tell her I was creating more work for her by switching companies, but she was more than understanding and suggested a company that quite a few of her patients use. She called in the referral and called me back to let me know they have smaller portable oxygen tanks (3.5lbs as opposed to 7lbs) and a delivery system that will allow me to fill the tanks myself. Say what???

I was thrilled at the smaller tanks and would have been completely delighted at that alone. Three and a half pounds less may not seem like a lot, but when it is something you have to lug around with you, every ounce makes a difference. Size does matter, and in this case, smaller is a definite plus.

To be able to fill the tanks myself is an unexpected bonus - I can be completely independent! The only planning I'll have to do is to make sure that before an excursion or outing that one of the 2 portable tanks will be fully charged. No phone calls to make, no deliveries to wait for. I'll only have to deal with the home care company if there is a problem with the concentrator or compressor, and once a year they swap out the machines for newer models.

On top of these two large plusses, the delivery man couldn't have been any nicer. Not only did he not get lost, he cheerfully brought both machines upstairs, set them up, gave me a demo and was incredibly nice. Not one complaint about his day. Imagine!

As a rule, I prefer to use a "mom and pop" type establishment rather than a large company, but in this case my plan clearly backfired. From the small, family owned business I got outdated equipment, rude delivery and poor service. From the large company I had a totally opposite experience. I guess this once I can go against my principles- I'd have to be an oxy-moron to have stayed with the other company!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Nesting Behavior

The first time I heard that term was while I was expecting W and thought I perfectly summed up the urge I had to get the house in order. The anticipation, restlessness, need to have everything ready. What a cool phenomenon! A behavior that humans and animals all share at some point; something that connects us all as sentient beings living together on this planet.

For the past week or so I've been watching true nesting behavior in action - a pair of house wrens (thanks, Audubon guide to North American birds) is setting up their house in our bird box. Prior to their moving in I saw a few birds checking it out, chickadees popped in and out a few times and decided it was an unsuitable space. No matter, the wrens thought it was perfect and proceeded to make many trips with twigs, bits of grass and other plant matter.

I had no idea how long it took to build a nest, always assuming it took a day or so. Judging by the number of visits with nesting materials in their beaks I'm now thinking it must take closer to a week to complete. I'd love to be privy to the process going on in the box but wouldn't dare disturb them. Watching from the porch or picnic table will have to do. The wrens chatter at us when we're out there but don't seem to be too disturbed by our presence, thankfully.


Across the yard from the birds, the gardens are marked and ready for planting. The potatoes are already in and growing nicely; over the past weekend I planted onion, carrot, beet and bush bean seeds directly in their places. The strings mark out square feet to designate where each crop will be planted. Eventually I'm hoping to have Joe make me some wooden grids, but for now the strings work perfectly. Last weekend we were able to put up the trellises on the northern ends of the beds, which the vining crops will on.

If all goes according to plan, we'll have a crop of baby birds as well as some nice veggies later on in the season.




Saturday, May 8, 2010

Quite a Sendoff


A week ago today we said goodbye to Paul in grand style and it's taken me this long to be able to put anything in writing. There were so many emotions associated with the day: joy, nostalgia, respect, appreciation and of course, sadness that it has been difficult to process.

Our dear friend was definitely in charge of the weather because it dawned sunny, clear and much warmer than the usual first-weekend-in- May average. Paul was always cold so it was perfectly fitting. Interment at the beautiful Mount Holyhood cemetery in Brookline was simple and brief. The urn sat atop the gravesite along with the lovely glass rose that symbolized his online friendships with other cystic fibrosis patients. It was difficult walking away.

The memorial mass was given by a Jesuit priest, Father Jim, who couldn't have been a more perfect match. Paul would have loved him and I can just imagine the lengthy and in-depth philosophical conversations what would have occurred between the two of them. Although the two of them never met in life, Father Jim perfectly summed up Paul, no doubt due to the loving descriptions given by Paul's parents and aunt. His mom picked the readings for the mass and although I am probably the furthest thing to a religious scholar, they made perfect sense to me and tied the ceremony together perfectly. It was a beautiful service and a wonderful, loving tribute to a great son, brother, nephew, friend, scholar and teacher.

His family had planned a delicious luncheon reception following the service where everyone could mingle, share stories and process the mass. The food was delicious and a perfect way to cap off the morning's ceremonies.

It was amazing to have a group of 15 cystic patients together in one place celebrating the life of a cherished friend. The photo was taken on the steps of a former dormitory that was adjacent to the reception and chapel. Friends came from far and wide to pay tribute to Paul: several from the west coast, the south, and the northeast. I can't think of another occasion which has gathered such a number of cystics in one place.

The culmination of the day was the Because of a Woman CD release party that night. Held at an Irish bar in Brighton, the setting couldn't have been any more perfect. Dorian Taj made the trip from Chicago to perform and Paul's brothers David and Kevin did an amazing job of bringing to life the songs from the CD. My favorite, of course, was Terminal.

I think Paul would have been quite pleased at his sendoff, though I can hear him blustering about all the cystics spending time together. Somehow, though, I think he would have understood that we needed to do this for us and if anything, that would have made it almost ok in his mind. 'Bye, friend, I'll always miss you but will see you on the other side.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Perseverance

Sometimes when you are waiting for a certain outcome it pays to turn a blind eye to whatever you are looking for. Distraction is a good ally and time will always provide perspective, even if it doesn't give you the results you want.

After 4 weeks of exercising routinely I do notice my stamina and strength have improved somewhat. I've been able to increase my leg weights by a pound and my arm weights by 2, so that's something. Day to day the changes are too subtle to be able to take note of, but over a month there is a discernible difference. I'm still needing supplemental oxygen, but at least I haven't leveled at the depressing plateau I'd been at. I may need a little extra help, but I can still crawl back up the hill.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Spring 2010

I love spring.





















Blue sky birches through the verbena.















Scilla by the back basement steps.
















Tree form verbena buds.




















Cheerful daffs along the side walkway